Newcastle wrap up pre-season friendlies with 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao

Newcastle wrap up pre-season friendlies with 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao
Newcastle United's Callum Wilson in action with Athletic Bilbao's Yeray at St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain, on July 30, 2022. (Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes)
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Updated 30 July 2022

Newcastle wrap up pre-season friendlies with 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao

Newcastle wrap up pre-season friendlies with 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao
  • Goals by Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin secure second victory in two days following Friday’s 1-0 win over Atalanta

NEWCASTLE, Britain: Two days, two totally different starting XIs, but exactly the same result. Newcastle United made it back-to-back pre-season victories at St. James’ Park, this time seeing off Athletic Bilbao 2-1.

Less than 24 hours after Chris Wood's penalty ensured a 1-0 win over Atalanta, strike rivals Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin netted to see off La Liga opposition this time out. Raul Garcia added a consolation for Los Leones.

In a ploy that has intrigued many among the United faithful, head coach Eddie Howe has opted to split this Newcastle group throughout pre-season.

Hour and half-hour stints in Austria, then a 45-minute show apiece at Benfica before the full 90 for much of the squad this weekend is Howe's way of easing his players into things and firing them up at just the right time.

In truth, it is impossible to know whether this tactic will work — judgments will be reserved for after the clash with Nottingham Forest next weekend — but it's kept everyone guessing as to what constitutes Howe's strongest XI, with Premier League football looming large on the horizon.

“The last two games have been brilliant exercises for us," said Howe on selection. “Two top teams. Two different XIs for a big test for us, but I think we've come through with no injuries. Two positive results and two good performances.

“We wanted a tough test. We wanted every game to examine our team and make sure we’re ready for the rigors of Premier League football. Definitely, the last three games have given us top-quality opposition who have all played in slightly different ways, but they’ve taken the game to us so it was an equal challenge.

“Both teams in the last two days have been going for each other and played some really good football at times. That was the type of test we needed because we know the level of Nottingham Forest will be very high. None of our players can turn round and say they weren’t ready for Premier League football.

“Pre-season is done, we’ve got the last few bits of training to get us up to top speed. I’m sure we’ll be ready.”




Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe and Matt Ritchie after the match with Bilbao at St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain, on July 30, 2022. (Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes)

While what looked very much like at least four of United's first-choice back five — four plus a goalkeeper — was deployed against the Italians last night, it looked, to the untrained eye at least, that this XI makes up much of Newcastle's forward big hitters.

Saint-Maximin and Wilson were joined by Bruno Guimaraes, Joelinton, and Joe Willock, all of whom look set to be guaranteed starters with the newly-promoted Tricky Trees in town in seven days.

And it was two of those who combined to get Howe's men off to the perfect start.

With just three minutes on the clock, Saint-Maximin cut in from the left, as has become his trademark, and laid into the path of Matt Ritchie, who in turn flipped through the Bilbao backline to Wilson who showed his usual level of composure and class to turn home for 1-0.

Dominant from minute one to 45, Guimaraes ran rings around the visiting midfield, spraying balls left and right and drawing tackles and fouls at will as he frustrated those on the Bilbao bench and the pitch.

Sven Botman, making his home debut, also excelled at the heart of defense as his timely blocks and interceptions shed light on the very different side to his game, the blood and guts defensive work, to go with the slick, unflappable passing game he so clearly possesses.

Like the previous night, a raft of changes from the visiting bench freshened things up for the opposition and, with fatigue a factor, the balance of play leveled somewhat — although not before Saint-Maximin had worked some match-winning magic of his own.

A curled ball from the outside of Joelinton's right boot set the Frenchman away down the left and driving toward goal, and Saint-Maximin rolled past the outstretched frame of Ander Iruarrizaga for 2-0.

That goal, more than any other this pre-season, will likely have a profound impact. No player has been transformed in approach so starkly this summer than Saint-Maximin. While the goals and assists have evaded him this summer, like the tail end of last season, this all-round player has gone up levels.

Where previously decision-making was found wanting and often the ball turned over to the opposition, the former Monaco man is now doing the simple things well - and, importantly, is a vital and willing component in Howe's high praise.

“I thought he was excellent today,” Howe said of Saint-Maximin. “Allan thrives on the crowd here, thrives off the energy and the love of the crowd. You could see that in his performance today, it was probably his best performance during pre-season.

“He took his goal very well and worked hard, looking like a real threat. Delighted for him.”

As the game stretched and United's powers waned, substitute Garcia got on the end of an inviting cross to hammer home a header to reduce arrears but, despite some sustained pressure and thanks to some Martin Dubravka heroics, the Magpies held on to round off their summer in style.

“The first half was good. There were a lot of fluent attacks, good individual displays and collective too,” said Howe, summing up another victorious afternoon for his side. “We looked dangerous, defended well, and were on the front foot - everything we want to be. An intense game.

“Second half, similar to yesterday when the changes were made, we suffered with their fresh legs and our tired bodies but that’s the beauty of the exercise of playing two games in two days so we can get the majority of players 90 minutes.”


Liverpool clash threatens more misery for Man United

Liverpool clash threatens more misery for Man United
Updated 7 sec ago

Liverpool clash threatens more misery for Man United

Liverpool clash threatens more misery for Man United
  • Always one of the biggest clashes in the English football calendar, Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford has taken on even more importance after a difficult few weeks for both clubs

MANCHESTER: Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League for the first time in 30 years, Manchester United’s disastrous start to the season on and off the field could still get worse when they face Liverpool on Monday.

Always one of the biggest clashes in the English football calendar, Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford has taken on even more importance after a difficult few weeks for both clubs.

Liverpool’s title hopes have already been hit by draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace to leave Jurgen Klopp’s men four points adrift of defending champions Manchester City.

However, Liverpool’s woes of an early season injury crisis and the absence of Darwin Nunez due to his ill-discipline that cost the Uruguayan a red card on his home debut, pale into insignificance compared to United’s troubles.

Erik ten Hag is off to the worst start of any United manager for over 100 years after a 4-0 humbling at the hands of Brentford followed Brighton’s first ever win at Old Trafford on the opening weekend of the season.

A large-scale protest by United fans is planned before kick-off aimed at the club’s owners, the Glazer family.

“A fish rots from the head,” said the Manchester United Supporters Trust this week with pressure rising on the Americans to consider selling the club.

Elon Musk joked he was buying the Red Devils this week, while Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe has signalled his interest.

The lack of a coordinated transfer strategy has left Ten Hag to work with largely the same squad that suffered 5-0 and 4-0 thrashings at the hands of Liverpool in their two meetings last season.

Ten Hag, though, also has questions to ask after pushing for the signing of Lisandro Martinez from his old club Ajax despite the Argentine centerback’s diminutive frame seemingly being unsuited to the rigors of the Premier League.

Martinez was hauled off at halftime against Brentford with United already trailing 4-0, but Ten Hag conceded afterwards all 11 of his starting line-up could have been replaced.

Brentford players covered 13.8 kilometers more in that match and Ten Hag reportedly responded by canceling a planned day off to make his squad run that distance the day after defeat last Saturday.

But it is on the pitch he needs a response with Liverpool also wounded for their trip to Manchester.

City’s transformation into the dominant club in English football over the past decade thanks to the flow of investment from Abu Dhabi appeared the blueprint for Newcastle to follow under the ownership of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

But Newcastle’s first summer transfer window under the new regime has been surprisingly quiet with Nick Pope and Sven Botman the only new faces at St. James’ Park.

They have still enjoyed a strong start to the season with four points from their first two games, but City’s visit will give an early indication as to how seriously the Magpies could challenge for a top-four finish.

Leicester are the only Premier League club yet to spend any money in the window and manager Brendan Rodgers is not expecting that to change due to the state of the club’s finances.

“I spent my summer holidays convincing players to come but when I come back the reality of the situation is there and we are unable to follow through with it,” said Rodgers on Thursday.

“I don’t run the finances of the club. I run the football department and if they say we can’t sign a player I trust the club that it’s the case.”

The Foxes long-serving captain Kasper Schmeichel joined Nice earlier this month and more key players could still leave with Wesley Fofana a target for Chelsea, while Newcastle have had bids rejected for James Maddison.

After just one point from their opening two games, Leicester badly need a win when Southampton visit on Saturday to lift the mood around the King Power ahead of a tough run of fixtures that includes trips to Chelsea and Tottenham in their next five games.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Tottenham vs Wolves (1130), Leicester vs Southampton, Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa, Everton vs Nottingham Forest, Fulham vs Brentford (all 1400), Bournemouth vs Arsenal (1630)

Sunday

Leeds vs Chelsea, West Ham vs Brighton (both 1300), Newcastle vs Manchester City (1530)

Monday

Manchester United vs Liverpool (1900)


Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy

Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy
Updated 19 August 2022

Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy

Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy
  • Top seed Medvedvev kept Denis Shapovalov winless against world No. 1s with a 7-5, 7-5 victory
  • Unseeded Keys was thrilled with her defeat of Swiatek, against whom she had lost two prior matches

CINCINNATI, US: Top-ranked Daniil Medvedev advanced to the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters quarterfinals on Thursday while women’s world No. 1 Iga Swiatek was upset by American Madison Keys.

Top seed Medvedvev kept Denis Shapovalov winless against world No. 1s with a 7-5, 7-5 victory while Poland’s Swiatek lost 6-3, 6-4 to 2019 Cincinnati champion Keys, who needed five match points to finish off the shock triumph.

Shapovalov, who lost in an hour and three-quarters, has dropped all eight career matches he has played against the elite echelon.

Medvedev moved into a quarterfinal against 11th seed Taylor Fritz after the American stopped No. 6 seed Andrey Rublev 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 7-5.

“It was a fight today, definitely not easy,” said Medvedev, who clinched the top US Open seeding when Rafael Nadal lost here in the second round.

“The match was pretty tight, played at a great level. My goal was to stay in every point possible and try to put pressure on him if I had the chance.”

Medvedev secured late breaks in both sets as he matched his volatile Canadian opponent.

Medvedev and Fritz have never played.

“We trained together at the start of the season before the ATP Cup,” Medvedev said. “He won Indian Wells, he’s a Masters champion. I need to be at my best to try and beat him.”

Unseeded Keys was thrilled with her defeat of Swiatek, against whom she had lost two prior matches.

“I had a couple of games with a couple of match points,” Keys said. “She beat me pretty badly last time so I’m happy to get the win.”

Swiatek never found an ace and was broken five times as she fought back in vain after standing one game from defeat.

It was the second week in a row that the Pole, who put together a 37-match win streak this season, lost in a Masters third round. She suffered the same fate in Toronto seven days earlier.

Keys plays on Friday against Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who advanced to the last eight 6-2, 6-4 over Alison Riske-Amritraj.

Also ousted was Estonian second seed Anett Kontaveit, who fell to China’s Zhang Shuai 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Top-ranked American Jessica Pegula ended the run of US Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4, sending the Briton onto the practice courts before the Aug. 29 start of her Grand Slam title defense.

Raducanu will head to New York with a 15-18 record since her 2021 title triumph and will drop from the top-10 after failing to reach the quarterfinals.

The teenager put a backhand into the net to give her opponent a match point, with Pegula sending over a service winner to wrap up the victory in an hour and three-quarters on her opponent’s 21st unforced error.

“I didn’t feel amazing out there,” Pegula said after reaching her seventh career quarter-final at a Masters 1000. “I’ve never hit with Emma, there was a lot to get used to.

“I’m happy with how I competed and stayed in it. I’m glad I handled things really well. I’ve been playing very consistently, no dramas, get out there and do what you’ve got to do. I try to do that every single week.”

Czech Petra Kvitova, twice a Wimbledon champion, defeated Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur 6-1, 4-6, 6-0. Kvitova broke six times as her fifth-ranked Tunisian opponent committed six double-faults.

Borna Coric, who upset second seed Rafael Nadal, continued his injury comeback progress by beating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-3.

No. 152 Coric is the lowest-ranked ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist since 239th-ranked Ivo Karlovic at 2011 Indian Wells.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, semifinalist at the last two editions, defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3.

John Isner sent down 20 aces in a 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 7-6 (7/4) defeat of US compatriot Sebastian Korda. At 37, Isner is the oldest Cincinnati men’s quarterfinalist in the post-1968 Open era.

Isner passed Roger Federer, who was a younger 37 when he reached his most recent Cincinnati quarterfinal in 2018.


Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates
Updated 19 August 2022

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates
  • Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018
  • Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory

MUNICH: Norwegian prodigy Jakob Ingebrigtsen sealed a memorable European distance double-double in Munich on Thursday as Belgium’s Nafi Thiam retained her heptathlon title in style.

In a mixed night for defending champions at a rain-hit Olympic Stadium, a third, Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki, left it late to also retain his hammer throw title.

But there was no such luck for two-time world long jump champion and Olympic gold medallist Malaika Mihambo and her German teammate Mateusz Przybylko in the men’s high jump.

After heavy rain had seen the evening session delayed by 20 minutes, Ingebrigtsen made up for the disappointment of finishing second to Britain’s Jake Wightman in the 1,500m in last month’s world championships in Oregon.

The 21-year-old Norwegian, who dominated the 5,000m here on Tuesday, was also in total control of the 1,500m, clocking a championship record of 3min 32.76sec for his second gold of the continental track and field showpiece event.

Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018.

Britain’s Jake Heyward claimed silver in 3:34.44, with Spain’s Mario Garcia taking bronze in 3:34.88.

Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory.

It meant the Belgian became a two-time champion on the Olympic, world and European stage.

She had registered 13.34sec in the 100m hurdles, 1.98m in the high jump, 14.95m in the shot put and 24.64sec in the 200m on the first day of action on Wednesday.

Thursday saw her go out to a disappointing 6.08m in the long jump before 48.89m in the javelin and 2:17.95 in the 800m for a total of 6,628 points.

Poland’s Adrianna Sulek won silver with 6,532pts and Switzerland’s Annik Kalin bronze (6,515).

Kenyan-born Yasemin Can came close to a second distance double for Turkey, but Germany’s 2019 world bronze medallist Konstanze Klosterhalfen bolted with 600m to run for victory in the women’s 5,000m in 14:50.47.

Can and Britain’s Eilish McColgan rounded out the podium to add to the gold and silver medals they respectively won in the 10,000m earlier in the week.

There was a battle royale in the men’s hammer throw, Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Nowicki retaining his title with a best of 82.00m on the fifth of his six attempts.

Hungary’s Bence Halasz won silver in a personal best of 80.92m, while Norwegian Eivind Henriksen took bronze (79.45) to push five-time world champion Pawel Fajdek of Poland into fourth (79.15).

Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who famously shared Olympic gold at last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo with Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim but who has been suffering with the after-effects of Covid-19, wrapped up the men’s high jump with a best of 2.30m.

It was Tamberi’s second European title after having previously won in Amsterdam in 2016.

Tobias Potye of Germany took silver with 2.27m on countback from Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko.

Defending champion Przybylko could only finish sixth in the high jump, but Mihambo was beaten by just 3cm in her bid to retain long jump gold.

That title went to Serbia’s Ivana Vuleta, with a best of 7.06m.

Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis and Karsten Warholm had earlier lent more world-class stardust to the fourth day of action in Munich.

Olympic pole vault champion Duplantis, fresh from breaking his own world record in Eugene as he clinched world gold with 6.21 meters last month, qualified with ease for Saturday’s final.

And there was also no drama for defending 400m hurdles champion Warholm, who sailed into Friday’s final.


Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • After winning a silver medal at Tokyo 2020, Hamdi took top spot in the +84kg kumite category in Konya

RIYADH: Saudi Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi has claimed karate gold at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey.

He defeated Ismailov Qurban of Azerbaijan 10-4 in the final on Thursday night to take first place in the +84 kg kumite category.

Prince Fahd bin Jalawi, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and head of the Kingdom’s delegation in Konya, watched the victory and congratulated Hamdi on his latest triumph.

Hamdi reached the final by beating Sen Fateh of Turkey 2-0 in the semi-final. Earlier in the day, the Saudi Olympic hero kicked off his campaign at the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games by overcoming Tunisia’s Ahmad Khader through a technical knockout. He followed that up with a 2-0 victory over Khalid Hassanain of Qatar in the quarter-final.

Last year, Hamdi came within seconds of winning gold at the delayed Tokyo 2020 games but had to settle for silver after he was disqualified for a kick to the head of Iranian opponent Sajad Ganjzadeh in the final.


Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah

Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah
Updated 18 August 2022

Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah

Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah
  • The Somali-English fighter will take on Crystal Nova Garcia at the Rage on the Red Sea on Saturday

JEDDAH: Ramla Ali held a boxing session for girls and women in Jeddah on Thursday ahead of her history-making bout against Crystal Nova Garcia at the Rage on the Red Sea this Saturday.

It will not be the first time Ali makes history, having become the first English Muslim fighter to claim an amateur title in her country, and she will etch her name into the record books alongside her opponent as they become the first females to fight professionally in Saudi Arabia.

Since Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. headlined the Clash of the Dunes in 2019, there has been a 150 percent uptake in female sports participation across the Kingdom.

Boxing as a whole has seen a 300 percent jump in Saudis taking up the sport, and the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation is aiming to get 500,000 people involved in the sport over the next four years.

The increased interest in the sport and the governing body’s mission were in evidence at Jeddah’s Waad Academy, where Ali conducted a 45-minute training session with local coaches and Saudi girls and women between the ages of 15 and 30 from government-funded and private clubs across the country.

“The organizers inviting me to compete and allowing this fight to go ahead really shows you the cultural shift in the landscape that is happening in the region. I hope myself and my opponent, as well as the full card competing in Saudi Arabia, inspires future generations. It’s been wonderful to spend time with this group of girls today and I hope they truly believe their ambition is limitless.”

Alongside Ali was Rasha Al-Khamis, the country’s first certified female boxer and boxing coach, as well as a part-time footballer, Guinness World Records-holder and current vice president of the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation.

Al-Khamis herself has inspired women from all over the country and is hoping that Ali’s presence both at Waad Academy and at the Rage on the Red Sea will lead to even more of her countrywomen giving boxing — or any other sport for that matter — a go.

“Training programs are very important, not only for the athletes but to develop coaches and referees; the more we have the more competitions can be organized, which helps to identify promising talent,” Al-Khamis said. “We are constantly in the process of providing more training and increasing the number of competitions nationally and regionally, as well as looking into more programs that pave the way for future athletes.

“It’s so exciting to see the growing interest in the sport, especially following some of the incredible boxing spectacles we have, like this week’s Rage on the Red Sea.”

Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation President Abdullah Al-Harbi and CEO Amr Abdel Binhassan also oversaw the clinic, alongside Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn.

Rage on the Red Sea is at the King Abdullah Sports City Arena in Jeddah on Saturday, with Joshua looking to recapture his heavyweight world titles from Oleksandr Usyk at the top of the billing.

As well as Ali versus Nova Garcia delivering a first for boxing in Saudi Arabia, local boxer Ziyad Almaayouf will become the first professional fighter from his country to feature on a major international card.